Refugees who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region ride a bus going to the Village 8 temporary shelter, near the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Hamdayet, eastern Sudan, Dec. 1, 2020.
Refugees who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region ride a bus going to the Village 8 temporary shelter, near the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Hamdayet, eastern Sudan, Dec. 1, 2020.

GENEVA - The United Nations refugee agency and 30 humanitarian groups have issued an urgent appeal for $156 million to help Ethiopian refugees from the Tigray Region and people in their host countries for the next six months.

So far, refugees fleeing conflict in Ethiopia’s northern province of Tigray have sought refuge in neighboring Sudan. However, the U.N. refugee agency says that is likely to change. The agency says refugees, who reportedly are being prevented from leaving Ethiopia, might try to flee to Djibouti and Eritrea, instead.

The multi-agency appeal launched Tuesday aims to support the three governments and others in the region in facilitating access to asylum and the provision of lifesaving aid for those forced to flee.

Children play in front of a bullet-ridden wall of a destroyed store in the village of Bisober, in Ethiopia's Tigray region, Dec. 9, 2020.
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UNICEF is demanding access to the restive region to provide humanitarian assistance to children deprived of basic means by ongoing fighting

Aid agencies note a significant slowdown in the number of Ethiopians seeking asylum in neighboring Sudan. UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the total has now topped 52,000.

“Despite the number of new arrivals dropping more recently to some 500 a day, aid agencies are dealing with a full-scale humanitarian emergency in a very remote area that has not seen such a large influx in decades," Mahecic said.   

Mahecic says funding will pay for a number of critical activities, including registration and documentation, the decongestion of sites in border areas and transfer of refugees to new settlements. 

Ethiopian refugees who fled Tigray region, queue to receive food aid within the Um-Rakoba camp in Al-Qadarif state, on the border, in Sudan, Dec. 11, 2020.
Ethiopia's War-Scarred Tigray Region Regains Some Services
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and nearly a million fled their homes during airstrikes and ground battles in Tigray that exposed bitter ethnic divisions

“Currently, many refugees remain in overcrowded conditions without proper facilities, and there continues to be a shortage of medicine and other supplies," Mahecic said. "We have seen a huge demand for family tracing and reunification, education and child-friendly spaces, and nutritional programs.”  

Spokesman Mahecic says more than 20,000 refugees already have been relocated away from the border areas to the Um Rakuba camp, and work has begun on a new site located even further inside Sudan to accommodate more refugees.

Other priorities included in the appeal are for food, health, shelter and specific protection needs for women and girls at risk, unaccompanied minors, the disabled and the elderly.